The Justice Department contended on Thursday that contrary to his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI Director James Comey received a memo detailing different aspects of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation.
DOJ’s release claimed that Sessions’s Chief of Staff sent to Comey and other officials an email explaining the AG’s recusal and admonishing them from briefing Sessions on the Russia investigation. That contradicted Comey’s testimony in which he denied receiving additional details about the recusal, saying his knowledge of the recusal came from Sessions’s public statements, not an internal memo.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked Comey on Thursday about the source of his knowledge on Sessions’s recusal:
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: What is your understanding of the parameters of Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation?
JAMES COMEY: I think it’s described in a written release from DOJ which I don’t remember sitting here, but the gist is he will be recused from all matters relating to Russia or the campaign. Or the activities of Russia and the ’16 election or something like that.
HARRIS: So, is your knowledge of the extent of the recusal based on the public statements he’s made?
HARRIS: Is there any kind of memorandum issued from the attorney general to the FBI outlining the parameters of his recusal?
COMEY: Not that I’m aware of.
Justice spokesman Ian Prior further defended Sessions in the department’s Thursday statement, saying that the AG has not involved himself with the Russia investigation:
[I]t is important to note that after his initial meeting with career ethics officials regarding recusal (and including the period prior to his formal recusal on March 2, 2017), the Attorney General has not been briefed on or participated in any investigation within the scope of his recusal.